The world of soccer or as it is known all over the world "Football" has lost one of a kind. Considered by some as the most skilled player, Johan Cruyff has to go down as one of the few people who transformed the game and it can be argued that the era in which he played may not be repeated again. With arch nemesis such as Franz Beckenbauer, and the greatest player of all time Pele, George Best, Eusebio and the many others who shaped the game of soccer, Cruyff will always go down in history as the person who introduced us to "TOTAL SOCCER". Way before Ronalidinho, Messi, Ronaldo of Brazil, Maradona, Ronaldo of Portugal, Cantona, Zidane, and the many others including those who played for Cruyff while he was a coach at Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national team where he inspired the likes of Rudy Guillit, Frank Rickjard, Marco Van Basten and the many others that came after them, he was regarded as the man who created magic with the soccer ball.
In an interview he conducted for a documentary, Johan once said that the soccer ball was like your friend and you have to keep it with you when you need to and pass it on to others when others came to take it from you. Starting with his humble beginnings in the streets of Amsterdam, Cruyff got the opportunity to start playing as a kid with the Ajax club where he was able to work and hang out with older players that thought him some of the skills he acquired.
As an avid fan of the Dutch national team which has never won the world cup, I became intrigued by his ability to move the ball as if it was tied to his feet. Watching the 1974 world cup as a very little kid with my dad and his friends on TV, I was mesmerized by the way he handled the ball and shared it with his team mates. When the Orange Crush lost their final game to Berti Vogts, Muller and Franz Beckenbauer, I was heartbroken. Meanwhile, while growing up in the US, I was fortunate enough to see him play for the Washington Diplomats. In the early 80's some of the world's best players including Pele made their way to the NASL (North American Soccer League) with the addition of many African players who did not have big leagues in the continent as well as some of the up and coming college stars with the USA, the league surpassed every one's expectations and was regarded as a very competitive league. It is to be recalled in a game at RFK stadium, Cruyff scored one of the best goals of his career where he took the ball from midfield and after dribbling through many players and placed the ball in the back of the net. Local TV in the DC area must have showed the highlight for almost a month after wards and Cruyff shure enough won the title of "Budweiser goal of the year". He was purely a class act and a great ambassador of the game but what he will most be remembered for is his prowess on the field.
Johan won the Ballon d’Or three times. He was such a majestic play maker and revolutionized the game by allowing a fluid style of play. His mind thought way ahead of time and his timing synced well with his flow of the game. He went on to coach in Europe and provided us with a son Jordi. The son followed in his dad's footsteps even though he may not have been as good as his father. As an executive of Ajax, & Barcelona the impact he had on the game from coaching to running a strong and immaculate program will forever go down in the annals of history. Today the sports world and the game of soccer lost an icon.
The lesson to be learned:
As a habitual smoker until year 1991, Johan Cruyff may have hurt himself and as a result of it he got lung cancer. Most people don't talk about the cigarette smoking years which were his heydays because he went into coaching after he quit. I was always amazed by people like him whose athletic abilities were so good and they also smoked cigarettes. I had one such teammate in college and he was one of the best players on our team, however I am amazed to see a player the caliber of Cruyff practicing something that would affect him later in life. He was a chain smoker and may be young people can learn a lesson or two from this experience.
May He rest in Peace! He will be missed as a soccer legend, executive and plain simple a great human being. His image will forever be engraved in my head like some of the greatest players who have played the game. Why? Because I LOVE SOCCER!
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